“In some countries, children work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week,” the opening title cards in The Harvest/La Cosecha read. “Children 12 and younger pick crops. The United States of America is one of those countries.”
It is easy to dismiss this documentary produced by non-profit Shine Global and executive-produced by Eva Longoria as a liberal infomercial with political goals (at the end of the movie there is a link and a number you can text to donate to other non-profits that will “help change lives of child migrant workers”). It is more difficult to deny the fact that these children — these American children — are migrant farm workers who live here and spend their lives working like asses for peanuts and are unable to finish school due to the constant moving.
Are the parents or the government to blame? Is capitalism the culprit? The documentary doesn’t address these questions, focusing instead on simply exposing how these kids live and making you think twice before you condemn some Asian country for its child labor laws. You don’t need to look that far; it is happening right here.
The movie is a disturbing eye-opener that offers no solutions. And even if it could have made its point in less than 84 minutes, it is effective in the way that it enters these families’ lives — at times making you feel as if you are right there, living with them. The narrative follows 12-year-old Zulema López, of El Cenizo, 16-year-old Víctor Huapilla, of Quincy, Fla., and 14-year-old Perla Sánchez, of Weslaco, all of whom started picking crops with their families before reaching their teens. They move from town to town, waking at 5 in the morning and working all day in 100-degree heat. López, for example, makes $64 a week; on a slow day, Huapilla carries 1,500 pounds of tomatoes (each 25-pound bucket pays $1). The average farm working family in America makes less than $17,500 a year.
The Harvest is a depressing, no-way-out look at life in America, and it isn’t easy to watch. Perhaps the only somewhat uplifting moment comes during the closing credits, when the filmmakers added biographies of former child laborers who went on to successful professional careers (like NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, who worked the fields from ages 7 to 16). But go tell that to a kid who has to get up at 5 a.m. to pick vegetables.
“I think I’m helping [mom] with [this],” says López. “But dreams? No, I’m still working on those.” •
The Harvest/La Cosecha
$4 (free for Guadalupe members)
2pm Sunday, September 25
Guadalupe Theater 1301 Guadalupe St.
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